By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – New Beginnings Adoption Agency marked its 26th year of adoptions by bringing in Christian music artist Mark Shultz.
Its 10th annual Celebration of Adoption on Thursday night also featured speaker Lauren Kitchens-Steward, a meal and a silent auction.
“I remember the first Celebration,” said Tom Velie, president of New Beginnings. “Our hands were raw from cutting the lettuce. We prepared for 200, and 100 actually came, and we thought it was a success.”
This year nearly 500 people attended the program headlined by Shultz, winner of numerous accolades in the Christian music community and writer of the hits such as “Back in His Arms Again” and “Letters from War,” which also found success on mainstream charts. Shultz champions the cause of adoption because he himself was an adopted child.
“People were very hush-hush about adoption when I was growing up,” Shultz said. “But at events like this, people can put a face on adoption and it inspires them to get involved.”
Shultz said performing for New Beginnings felt like a good fit for him because of his song “Everything to Me,” which praises his birth mom for giving him the chance for life.
“Everyone has a cause, but since it really is my story, my performance really comes from my heart,” he said.
Steve and Evelyn Drury, founders of New Beginnings, were also in attendance and said they are proud to see their ministry become so successful. They started the agency in 1986 after becoming involved with the Children’s Mansion foster home in Tupelo.
“The Mansion was like a hospital for the abandoned; it’s good, but no one wants to stay in a hospital forever,” Steve Drury said. “We started the agency to do two things: place older children in adoptive homes and provide refuge for crisis pregnancies.”
Today, New Beginnings is the only Hague-accredited agency in the state, and has branches in Nepal, Taiwan and Poland. According to Kitchens-Stewart, New Beginnings’ birth mother hotline fields about 450 calls per year and offers a care center for birth mothers, where they receive counseling, food, shelter and schooling.